Driving in Boston


There was a survey for some national organization or something that listed the cities with the rudest drivers. Boston made the list, of course, but down at #5. The next day’s headline in the Boston Herald, in typical Herald-style big lettering on the front page, was “Boston Drivers Not Rude Enough.” Appropriate.

For a good portion of last week, for whatever reason (probably something to do with the biblical-style flooding and rain) the traffic light at the end of the BU bridge and Commonwealth Avenue was broken. This caused certain variations in traffic patterns and directional closings that wreaked havoc with the already tenuous traffic balance in that area. The bus trip home one day actually involved my bus (the CT2) making a 3-point turn across Commonwealth Ave. All of this made me chuckle a bit about how we drive here in Boston. Here’s some very good advice paraphrased from a guide book (Not For Tourists Guide to Boston):

In Boston, and the surrounding area, squares are not square. They usually have six or seven feeder streets. In high speed situations, roads intersect in “traffic circles,” a.k.a. “rotaries.” The ability to properly navigatethese dangerous, but efficient interchanges is a source of pride for Boston drivers. And proud they should be. Boston drivers are the best in the country, which is something you will realize once you understand the rules of the road — a system based on the idea that everyone who learned to drive anywhere else sucks. Some rules:

Be aggressive: Drive the streets of Boston. Don’t let the streets drive you. You will often find yourself needing to make four-lane changes in 100 feet, weave in and out of crowded rotaries, or drive at 60mph on narrow roads within inches of the oncoming lane.

“The whites of their eyes”: Eye contact and gestures will let you know if they will let you into their lane, are upset that you cut them off, or if they applaud your recent ballsy driving maneuver. This will also be a good opportunity to see if they hate you. Drivers in other cities may inadvertantly cut off others in their race to “get there first,” but in Boston, driving is often spite-based … people will cut you off just for fun.

Check your directions, check them again: If someone tells you to take a right or a left, ask how much of a right or a left. Knowing if you need a turnaround right, hard right, soft right, or straight right makes all the difference.

Commonwealth Avenue: You’ll encounter hills, masses of bikers and BU students, legal left turns through three lanes of traffic and two trolley lanes, illegal right turns that everyone takes anyway, green lights that require stopping, and red lights you’re expected to know to ignore. Enjoy.

Here are a couple of my favorite sights in thumbnails with links to google maps:
Cambridge and Charles Crazy Intersection
Sears Circle

  1. #1 by 1/2 2GD on May 24, 2006 - 4:15 pm

    One of my coworkers today actually said, “I feel like I’m in the weeds right now.” I had never heard this phrase before your blog. Good work.

  2. #2 by 1/2 2GD on June 2, 2006 - 12:04 pm

    I remember, way back in the day, when this blog used to be the bee’s knees.
    P.S. Thanx for the ride last night!

  3. #3 by Lee Boston on June 7, 2006 - 6:05 pm

    I came across your blog while doing a search on other blogs about Boston driving. You’re right in that Boston drivers really are the best. I realized this after having moved here and learned the system. Nice to see positive things about drivers.